// you’re reading...

Education

5 Tips for Mastering Layer Masks

Lately, I’ve been noticing designers, photographers and illustrators layering their work as well. From photographer’s portfolios to television ads, compositing photos or videos with text, backgrounds and textures is hot. Even Ford is getting into the action with a surprisingly creative F-150 advertising campaign.


If you’re not already a master of layer masks and compositing, here are five tips to help you get up to speed on this essential skill. For deeper training on the subject, join me later this month for a two-part webinar series devoted to layer masking and compositing. (www.prorgb.com/powerlunch)

1) White reveals, black conceals: When using a layer mask, the cardinal rule to remember is: white parts of the mask reveal, black conceal, or hide. What specifically is revealed or hidden depends upon the layer the mask is applied to. For a regular pixel layer, white areas of the mask are opaque, black areas are transparent. When using an adjustment layer, white areas of the mask apply the correction contained on the layer, black areas prevent the correction from being applied.
2) Masks and Selections are two sides of the same coin: If you’re accustomed to using selections, switching to layer masks will be an easy transition. Just think of layer masks as saved selections and selections as temporary masks. It’s quite common to jump back and forth between the two several times on a complex project. The selected areas correspond to the white areas of the mask, deselected areas become the black parts of the mask.
3) Think global, then local: When correcting images in Photoshop, first apply your global corrections (white balance, contrast, saturation) then target specific areas within your image. These local areas are often corrected quickly by using an adjustment layer with a layer mask applied.
4) Exploit the differences: Videographers have long used green screens and blue screens for video compositing because skin tones have very little green or blue in them, making it easier for software to discern the difference between a subject and the background. In photos taken outside the studio, rarely are the differences so neat. Instead, look for differences in your photo’s color channels to see if any one of the color channels contains the mask you’re looking for.
5) Have a deep bag of tricks: There is no one masking technique that works well in all situations. Having several masking and selection techniques at your disposal, from magic wand to the Pen tool or channel blending will allow you to work quickly and minimize the amount of manual masking you need for a given image.

If you’re not already a master of layer masks and compositing, here are five tips to help you get up to speed on this essential skill. For deeper training on the subject, join me later this month for a two-part webinar series devoted to layer masking and compositing.

1) White reveals, black conceals: When using a layer mask, the cardinal rule to remember is: white parts of the mask reveal, black conceal, or hide. What specifically is revealed or hidden depends upon the layer the mask is applied to. For a regular pixel layer, white areas of the mask are opaque, black areas are transparent. When using an adjustment layer, white areas of the mask apply the correction contained on the layer, black areas prevent the correction from being applied.

2) Masks and Selections are two sides of the same coin: If you’re accustomed to using selections, switching to layer masks will be an easy transition. Just think of layer masks as saved selections and selections as temporary masks. It’s quite common to jump back and forth between the two several times on a complex project. The selected areas correspond to the white areas of the mask, deselected areas become the black parts of the mask.

3) Think global, then local: When correcting images in Photoshop, first apply your global corrections (white balance, contrast, saturation) then target specific areas within your image. These local areas are often corrected quickly by using an adjustment layer with a layer mask applied.

4) Exploit the differences: Videographers have long used green screens and blue screens for video compositing because skin tones have very little green or blue in them, making it easier for software to discern the difference between a subject and the background. In photos taken outside the studio, rarely are the differences so neat. Instead, look for differences in your photo’s color channels to see if any one of the color channels contains the mask you’re looking for.

5) Have a deep bag of tricks: There is no one masking technique that works well in all situations. Having several masking and selection techniques at your disposal, from magic wand to the Pen tool or channel blending will allow you to work quickly and minimize the amount of manual masking you need for a given image.

Discussion

No comments for “5 Tips for Mastering Layer Masks”

Post a comment